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Minerva Punjab's Ranjit Bajaj - East Bengal were not professional before Quess came in

1:50 PM IST 03/12/18
Ranjit Bajaj Minerva Punjab I-League 2017-18 champions
The Minerva Punjab owner slammed the East Bengal officials as unprofessional but praised Quess Corp for changing the face of the club....

Reigning champions Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj hit out at East Bengal officials ahead of the two teams’ I-League 2018-19 match on Tuesday in Kolkata.

Without any qualms, Bajaj lashed out at the ‘unprofessional’ officials of the Kolkata giants. He also mentioned that the face of the club changed after Quess Corp came on board as the club’s investor.

Speaking about the East Bengal officials, the Minerva owner said, “I really don't think they (East Bengal officials) were professional before. East Bengal had a great team last year and I think they should have won the I-League. But I have come to know from various players the atmosphere of the club was not right and even the coach didn't have a say in certain matters. There was a lot of pressure from the club officials. But now things have changed.”

The tension between the two clubs started earlier this season when Minerva Punjab lodged a complaint against the Red and Golds with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) over the irregularities in their approach for signing Sukhdev Singh from the I-League champions.

The Indian FA had imposed a transfer ban on East Bengal which was later revoked on December 1 after the Kolkata club paid Rs. 7 lakh fine.

Speaking about the transfer ban saga, Baja said, “The AIFF handed the transfer ban because East Bengal officials were wrong. I have nothing against the club but if you try to steal from my house I will obviously complain. This was like robbery. My aim is always to send my boys to big clubs. They have the money and we run by making revenue from my players. We are a small club. Sukhdev Singh's agent and club officials were at fault for the entire thing.”

He added, “Professionalism is slowly coming in Indian football. The lesson from the ban was that the clubs will think twice next time before doing such unscrupulous things.”

On the newly formed rivalry between Minerva and East Bengal said, the owner said, “It is good for football that rivalry exists between clubs. Earlier it was only between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Now the other clubs in India are also coming with a considerable number of fans. There has to banter in football but in limits. It should not cross the line.”

There is speculation that the Kolkata clubs might play in the Indian Super League (ISL) next season with the I-League functioning as the second-tier but without any promotion/relegation between the two. However, Ranjit Bajaj mentioned that the top tier of Indian football, be it I-League or the ISL, should have a promotion and relegation system. “There has to be promotion or relegation in the top tier. ATK vs Mumbai is one of the most boring matches I have ever seen. If there is no promotion or relegation, there is no motivation. It should be merit-based. All Goan clubs and even Mohammedan sporting should also be there at the top,” said the Minerva owner.